Sleeping on the streets is tough enough without worrying about freezing to death.
It’s a problem that plagues homeless people across the country as winter hits and temperatures drop. But one innovative creation is doing more than keeping Detroit’s homeless warm. It’s helping them turn their lives around.
The idea came from Veronika Scott, who, having growing up in a family touched by addiction and mental illness, experienced homelessness herself. While attending the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, she worked on a life-altering project. The assignment was to design a product that meets a community’s needs. She chose the city’s homeless population, for which she created a coat that transforms into a sleeping bag and can be carried over the shoulder.
But a more pressing need came to her attention while she distributed the coats. One homeless woman told her, “I don’t need a coat! I need a job!” Her words inspired Veronika to start Empowerment Plan, a non-profit dedicated to tackling homelessness through jobs and education.
Empowerment Plan has since created and distributed 35,000 coats worldwide, all at no cost to their recipients. In those eight years, the organization has hired and trained more than 80 homeless people to manufacture their coats. It also helps these people find housing.
While none of Veronika’s first employees had a home, their work ethic definitely wasn’t lacking.
“They were just so dedicated,” the CEO and founder told CNN. “I remember they were like, ‘Oh, I have kids, but that’s not going to get in the way!'”
The non-profit even offers its employees valuable classes to ensure they become self-sufficient, including GED test preparation and financial literacy. It also provides support to victims of domestic violence like Pam Warren, who lived with her children in a car for months before Empowerment Plan gave her a job. She and other women who have graduated from the program now have their own careers, houses, and even businesses! Hear a few of their stories below.
Everyone has a different reason, but all share the same goal. Our coats provide shelter, but they symbolize so much more for our team. Here's to new beginnings in a new decade. #2020 #EMPWRdetroit pic.twitter.com/bGx1lWm9JB
— The Empowerment Plan (@empowermentplan) January 4, 2020
“This is the first job that has given me a sense of self-worth and value,” said Sherika Lane, one of the seamstresses. “I feel like I am part of something bigger and feel a sense of support and community when I come to work.”
“This is so much bigger than anything I could have imagined,” Veronika added.
Thank you, Veronika and everyone involved, for making a difference — and in more than one way! You are the reason these strong, empowered women are on their way to better lives.
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